An overbite is a visible representation of a misaligned jaw. Although many terms are used to describe this misalignment, the term ‘overbite’ is most common.
When a dog has an overbite, most of the teeth present in their upper jaw will be misaligned in a manner that makes the upper jaw visibly more predominant, typically causing the upper teeth to hang over the dog’s lower jaw. Not all overbites are a result of a misalignment of the upper jaw, however, and overbites can be caused by a dog having a shorter lower jaw instead.
It is important to distinguish between overbites and underbites, which are often confused among dog owners. Underbites are common among dog breeds with wide muzzles and short faces, such as pugs. Although an underbite is a similar type of misalignment, it only occurs when the lower jaw is misaligned in a position that makes it predominant compared to the upper jaw. Dogs with an underbite will have their upper jaw set behind their lower jaw, and the teeth of their lower jaw will usually be significantly more visible.
What Causes Overbite in Dogs?
Overbites can be hereditary and common among certain dog breeds. Also, dogs that never suffered from this issue can develop it in certain cases. Every dog breed has its unique features and physical attributes, and likewise, some dog breeds are prone to having overbites due to their genetic background. For example, overbites tend to be more common among dogs with longer muzzles, including the following breeds:
- Basset hounds
- German shepherds
- Border collies
- Cavalier King Charles
- Doberman pinschers
- Afghan hounds
Many dog breeds are affected by overbites. Even if your dog is not among some of the most commonly affected breeds, it does not mean that they’re immune to developing a misalignment. Since overbites are often hereditary, a puppy can have an overbite even if both parents don’t, since there is always a chance that the dog’s previous ancestors may have had this trait. Alternatively, some puppies also develop overbites due to improper usage of chew toys.
How to Recognize an Overbite in Your Dog
Now that you understand what an overbite is, you may be wondering how to determine whether your dog has one. If your dog has a minor overbite, it may not be very noticeable without close observation. If the overbite has the potential to become more severe or problematic, your dog may develop certain behaviors or mannerisms. If you observe any of the following in your dog, they may have a more severe overbite:
- Food falling out of the dog’s mouth during chewing
- The dog may chew the food only on a specific side of their mouth or favor chewing in particular areas of the mouth to counterbalance any chewing issues caused by the misalignment
- Unusual trauma, irritation, or bruising within the mouth
- Bad breath
- When your dog’s mouth is closed, the teeth from the upper jaw may still be prominent
Keep in mind that the first two behaviors may not always indicate an overbite explicitly, but might point to the fact that your dog is experiencing discomfort while chewing. This can stem from other issues such as cavities, abscesses, and similar dental concerns. If you are in any doubt, contact your veterinarian to schedule an exam, and they will confirm the presence of an overbite and any related issues.
Does an Overbite Require Treatment?
Identifying and treating your dog’s overbite as early as possible is ideal. It’s not uncommon to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overbite in puppies. Whether your dog will need treatment for an overbite primarily depends on the severity of the misalignment. In many cases, overbites are mainly a cosmetic issue and will not directly impact your dog’s daily lifestyle. These would be considered minor overbites and would not require treatment from a veterinarian.
However, more severe overbites that impact your dog’s ability to function will require medical care and should not be ignored. It’s important to keep in mind that an overbite can worsen with time. If the overbite is affecting your dog’s ability to chew their food normally or is causing irritation and injuries inside of the mouth, you should consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.
It is worth acknowledging that overbites do have the potential to cause dental concerns by compromising your dog’s dental hygiene. The extent of the overbite can cause an excessive build-up of tartar and calculus if it prevents you from being able to clean your dog’s teeth effectively using brushing and other traditional methods.
However, unless the overbite is causing pain or having a detrimental impact on your dog’s routine, it most likely will not require invasive treatment.
Treating Overbite in Dogs
As mentioned previously, minor overbites rarely require treatment. They can sometimes even correct themselves as your dog continues to age, although this is more common among overbites in puppies. A spontaneous correction is only possible in puppies because their jaws continue developing until they are 10 months old.
If your dog’s overbite has not improved within that period, their jaw is set upon reaching adulthood, and natural correction will not be possible any further. Outside of natural correction, your veterinarian can offer some general treatments for an overbite.
The type of treatment recommended by your vet will largely depend on the severity of the overbite itself. The least invasive type of treatment would be specialized orthodontics for your dog. Just as humans need orthodontics to address spacing between teeth and correct misalignments, dogs can receive the same type of treatment. Common recommendations might include braces or spacers, just as you would expect with human orthodontics.
More severe overbites may require more invasive treatments such as surgery. If your veterinarian recommends a surgical extraction, don’t be alarmed. This is not an uncommon approach to treating overbites. Surgery is sometimes necessary, depending on how your dog’s teeth are aligned in their mouth.
Sometimes the teeth are removed completely, whereas other times, it may be necessary to carefully adjust their position or even file them down to make them shorter. Although surgical extraction can be alarming for some dog owners, it can provide a significant amount of relief in puppies and adult dogs that have been experiencing discomfort due to the symptoms of a severe overbite.
More often than not, overbites are a cosmetic issue and not a reason for serious concern. Many dog owners believe that this distinctive trait only further complements their furry pal’s personality and makes them even more memorable. Of course, if there are any signs that your dog’s overbite is causing pain or limiting their ability to eat regularly, you should schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible for professional guidance and care.
If truly necessary, a variety of orthodontic treatments can ensure that your dog’s overbite is corrected within months, if not even sooner. With a close eye on your pup’s development combined with regular oral examinations, you’ll be able to maintain their unique smile for years to come.